Rain Forest vs. Big Business and Oil

Waterfall in rain forest,

Waterfall in rain forest,There are some who don’t think that oil companies are evil, that their only concern is to make money, and never consider the consequences of their greed.  I’m not one of them, nor are the indigenous tribes of the rain forest.

All of these companies who make fortunes from petroleum spend millions of dollars in advertising attempting to convince the public that they are the “good guys”.  There is nothing good about them.  The advertisements have one purpose, to convince the American public that they are concerned about the environment and with increasing the quality of life for Americans and the world.  They spend millions doing this so that when they give our Congressmen and Senators money so they’ll vote on decisions that affect them, they’ll vote in favor of big oil.

One of the largest issues for the oil and gas companies is where they’re allowed to drill for the black gold.  The easier it is, the less expensive it is, and the more profit they’ll make.

The Amazon rain forest is rich with oil.  Ecuador, Argentina, Venezuela, and Brazil all want a piece of it, and China is loaning them money to accomplish it.  The United States is a part of it because we purchase a large amount of crude from Ecuador.

Ann Curry interviewed Boston University biology professor Kelly Swing, and traveled to the Amazon to talk to the tribes who inhabit the rain forest.  Professor Swing declared that “we’re definitely guilty in this story”.

China is loaning the money to these South American companies with the agreement that it will be repaid in “long-term commodity sales”, which essentially means, “destroying the rainforest, dredging it of its natural resources, making the money back, and leaving everything to fester and die.”

Between 1964 and 1992, Texaco, which is now part of Chevron, devastated the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon.  Nearly three decades of extracting oil and gas from the region destroyed the water.

“They can’t drink the water,they’ll get sick if they do,” Said Lou Dematteis, a photojournalist who has spent a great deal of time in Ecuador. “They can’t even bathe in it because it will give them cancer. They need to get water brought in from another source. The people in the southern part of the Ecuadorian Amazon facing this new round are desperately trying to avoid the same fate as those in the north.”

Oil spills in the area have resulted in an increase in birth defects and miscarriages and other related illnesses.  The fish population in the lagoons has been reduced significantly.

If and when new drilling begins, the tribes of the Amazon, the Kichwa and Wauroni, are prepared to fight.  They believe their purpose is to protect the rain forest.  When Ms. Curry asked one of the tribal members if they were prepared to defend the area with spears and blow guns; “he sees no difference between the survival of the forest and the survival of his people.”

Curry then asked Lenin Moreno, vice-president of Ecuador, if his country would use guns against the tribes if they were attacked by spears.  His response:  “According to international law, if dialogue fails, there is a process of escalation of the use of force.”

Professor Swing says:  “I definitely see this as a human rights issue. I think it’s very sad to say that most human rights issues don’t really come to be recognized as human rights issues until people start to die.”

It is believed that 1/10th of all living species are in the area where the oil will be extracted.  It covers about the same square mileage as South Carolina.

Ecuador is in severe financial difficulty.  It is reported that it is in debt to China for approximately 8.8 billion dollars.  And although the oil ministry has promised to be more environmentally conscious, it is doubtful that there is any substantive meaning behind the words.  The country has lost much of its sovereignty due to excessive foreign debt, and selling oil rights is a quick fix.  Ecuador is preparing to auction off 8 million acres to the oil companies.

Meanwhile, the Kichwa and Wauroni are sharpening their spears and hewing out blow guns.  They believe their survival, and that of the rain forest, depends upon the only weapons they have.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express